Darryl Roberts' Testimony Before the US Senate

On pre-need funerals

Darryl Roberts is a former funeral home worker, who is critical of the funeral industry and the way some funeral homes and even cemeteries handle pre-need funerals . He's released a document he titled Profits of Death , and spoke as an insider from the death care industry before the US Senate. Some of the issues Roberts highlighted in his April 2000 testimony before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging were:

  1. Portability. Roberts criticized the industry for not making provisions for people who move. When you buy a pre-need agreement, you lock yourself into one funeral home and one cemetery, with no consideration of the fact that you may move, your kids may move or circumstances may change otherwise. When you enter a pre-need agreement you may be limiting your choices. Since you're probably pre-planning in an attempt to make things easier on the loved ones you'll leave behind, you don't want to force them to deal with a funeral home or cemetery that isn't convenient for their living situation.

  2. Inflation. Roberts was concerned that many consumers were not adequately warned about the effects inflation can have on funeral costs. Should you die ten or more years after your pre-need arrangement, the costs of your funeral might be significantly higher (sometimes more than double) than you had anticipated. This leaves your loved ones with what can turn out to be some high expenses that they might not have planned for.

  3. Trusting. Roberts was critical of state laws that placed restrictions on trusting -thereby essentially restricting competition. Restrictions often refer to the amount that must be trusted and the amount that the consumer might be refunded if he or she decides to cancel for whatever reason. The laws give all advantage to the seller and little or none to the consumer.

  4. Insurance. Roberts called funeral insurance "one of the biggest consumer shams in the funeral industry." Almost all of these insurance policies, according to Roberts, are "overpriced as compared to a similar policy sold for a purpose other than to cover funeral costs." These are sold by members of the funeral industry for commissions of 20 percent to 40 percent. When death occurs, funeral providers will in turn charge higher fees to the family because death proceeds are not enough to cover the price increase of the funeral.
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